May 30, 2007

Not Steve Jobs

I've been reading the "Fake Steve Jobs" blog for a while... but today's entry (concerning Microsoft's Surface computing device - yes, I'll be buying one) was frikkin' priceless...

An excerpt:
"And what is up with all these stories like this one where the writer gushes about how you can just squeeze photos to make them smaller or stretch them to make them bigger. Golly, can you believe it? Well, yeah, I can, since I introduced this several months ago and I'm going to be shipping a real product that employs this technique in only a few weeks.

This Surface thing is such classic Gates. He copies our idea, but in a frigtarded, impractical way..."


May 29, 2007

The Bandwidth Shell Game

Whilst getting my slashdot groove on yesterday, I encountered this: Will ISPs Spoil Online Video?

The main thrust of the article is that no ISP can actually deliver the "promised" sustained bandwidth for all users on its network (or even a large percentage of its users) at any one time.

The article is basically true, in the facts, and I've touched on the topic of video bandwidth and the 'net in the past, but its (somewhat) unfair to narrow this to an ISP issue. (I say "somewhat" considering my previous gig was at an ISP, and my current employer offers Broadband ISP services, so perhaps I'm not the most objective here...)

For example, every website plans against peak load, not total possible usage - same problem: you can't access promised services (paid or free) as advertised/committed. And, more on point, Google's ever increasing g-mail mailbox size is also bogus in the same sense -they can offer that much storage because not everyone uses 2+GB for mail (very few do, in fact).

Really, all businesses do capacity planning (online AND offline) to determine pricing (and therefore marketing claims), and bandwidth is no different in this regard.

I can't even make a call for the first 30 minutes after American Idol ends - wireless capacity planning never forsaw the Seacrest effect.
And although I went to the Buffalo Wing Factory in Va ("Home of the Flatliner") for some spicy buffalo wings one night after a goodbye party for a departing colleague, they were, in fact, out of Flatliners. Grrrr....

What makes it thorny for most connected users is that the usage profile of the service, of the Internet, continues to evolve very rapidly, making terms of service seem quickly antiquated. What people should bear in mind though, is that the terms of service are simply a reflection of the economic and topological constraints of the network itself - usually in place to guarantee some core QoS (Quality of Service) for as many customers as possible.

Nobody's trying to trick anybody, or game the system - but you can't plan for what you don't know, and the increasing interconnectedness of things make prediction a dicey thing. That is to say, the dumber the network, the less visibility available.

Consider, for example, P2P applications are good (i.e. cost) for the endpoints (origin and destination), but usually MORE traffic (i.e. cost) for the network itself.

May 21, 2007

Microsoft's good at this...

I'd love to see Microsoft's "best practices" guide on the platform effect - they're good at it (generally). Like the developer entanglement Adobe's attempting with their eco-system, hard to argue that 4 gigs of Silverlight storage and streaming is bad for developers... just check out the community response (from a self proclaimed Adobe "Flex Machine", no less).

Though, these days, this seems more like a Google tactic than a Microsoft one... what does that tell you?

Copyright Law Farce

This won't last long, I'd guess. Courtesy of Slashot. Watch it while you can. The, um, chosen "medium" makes it a little tough to watch if you're not attentive, but serious points for creativity and chutzpah - even ends with full disclosure of the creators, and enumerates each clip "borrowed" under fair use.

May 15, 2007

IT and the Edge of the Network

My new work situation brought up an old debate with a good friend (perhaps good debate with an old friend? Works either way I suppose... but I digress): future topology of data and computing models on the network.

Or to put it another way: where do the leaf nodes connect to the edge of the network? Locally, in the home as a gateway for experience (or CPE in my new lingua franca) or remotely, that is, "directly" to remote applications and data stores.

This was/is partially a "client side computing" debate - where and how are performance, security, and storage best optimized.

But the observation at the end of it was this: The world only needs 6 servers arguments are currently in vogue (with consumers, who speak with their time), because, well, IT management sucks. To wit, allow me to posit: It is easier (i.e. better) to use remote applications with remote data for most users because it pushes the information management pain to professionals.

In order of "pain in the ass to maintain": Windows, Mac, Cell phone... not un-coincendentally, also a measure of how closed the software and hardware eco-systems are, in practice. Game consoles are particularly interesting in this regard (I'm rating them as easier than cel even), as everything but the VERY top layers of the stack are single sourced - sounds suspiciously like the RIA platform arguments, no?

(And all the User Access Controls in Vista, and installation hurdles for Apollo only argue against the edge being at the desktop for most applications...)

May 9, 2007

Review: Spiderman 3

Kinda blew chunks.

Sure - there were some snippets that rocked, but they were mere wisps of symphony in a sea of rhythmless plot meanderings and tone-deaf dialog. Spiderman 3 seemed like it was trying to create some sense of depth, direction, and development - as previous installments did more successfully - but everything felt far too forced to be much fun. Too much motion (emotional as well as physical) into too little movie...

My advice?

Wait for it on DVD, where there's a fast forward button, or if you must go see a movie on the big screen, try to find the infinitely smarter, funnier, and edge-of-your-seat exciting Grindhouse (best movie I saw this year), or the guy-flick adrenaline orgy that is 300 (Persian [dramatically]: "Our arrows raining down upon you shall be so numerous that they blot out the sun!" Spartan [laconically]: "Then we will fight in the shade...").

May 4, 2007

New Gig: Comcast Chief Software Architect

Starting Monday, I'll be working again, joining Comcast as SVP and Chief Software Architect.

The first thing I said when talking to people at Comcast (early on) was "Comcast? Software? Isn't that an oxymoron?" Suffice it to say, today they're a Cable Company... but tomorrow?

Well... more information in future posts... but mostly I was motivated
, at a personal level, by three (professional) considerations:

(a) At this point in my career, I wanted to either go do my own thing again (my usual default stance), or take a significant role at a significant organization; Comcast did $26B in revenue last year, and, though still facing far more demand than supply in the market place is still aggressively pursuing a deep business transformation for the new millennium. They're in a great place, and they're running very fast.

(b) I'm gratified that my particular skills and experience will be applicable and valuable, but also wanted to play in areas of complexity where I had little experience (Cable/Telecom) - nothing beats tackling new problems. And Comcast has no shortage of that, though they have a strong market position.

(c) I was quite impressed by the caliber, intellect, and alignment of the executive team. That last, in particular, I've found to be uncommon in large organizations (not just from my AOL experiences, but the half dozen or so "usual suspects" I've spoken to over the last few months).

Updated my LinkedIn profile last week - and am currently drowning in paperwork (employee stuff, moving, buying, schooling, re-locationg, eeeerkkk...) - but its all good :) In particular, my wife grew up in Philly (where Comcast Corp is headquartered), and it was while working near there that we met, so geography is actually a big part of the appeal, too - we have lots of friends and family in the area.

May 1, 2007

MIX '07 and Ray Ozzie

Ray Ozzie, Chief Software Architect of Microsoft (along with Scott Guthrie, General Manager of the tools group) presented the keynote at MIX '07, 2nd annual Microsoft's Web UI and development conference

The core tenet of Ray's argument is that client side computing is vital to delivering rich experiences. I think he made that case well (and I agree with the rationale), but Ray didn't really address how or why Silverlight specifically and WPF generally was better than browser + DHTML/SVG/Flash/Java, or whatever, in terms of ANY richer function and/or end user benefit.

Specifically, the undertone of the arguments, from both Microsoft and Adobe, is that a single sourced runtime is better for the developer - more consistency across a wider variety of platforms (browsers, OS'es, devices, etc.). And, as a practical matter, its hard to disagree with that - and there's enough that's "open sourced" by the vendors to reduce impedence in the development chain.

Speaking of which (and not to be overlooked), the development chain that Microsoft is putting together is nothing short of phenomenal. If there's a "secret sauce" in Windows continued dominance in the Enterprise (and thus, everywhere else) its through the tools, class libraries, etc.; they continue to define the cutting edge of developer productivity. Perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, it seems particularly well designed for small teams and becomes an easy way to develop prototypes, and, in turn, go from prototype to production.

Platform success, which I'll define as self-sustaining propagation and increasing barrier to exit, is definitely AADD (All About the Developers, Dummy).

There was also a Michael Arrington interview with Ray and Scott, which might as well have been conducted by a Microsoft employee. What few interesting questions were asked went basically unanswered, and at least that way there would have been less mumbling.